Kongsberg Maritime provide solutions to organisations that wish to carry out a variety of work at sea including, Underwater Navigation, Fisheries, Hydrographics & Naval, and autonomous underwater vehicles. The event was opened by saying, “There are troubled times in the offshore industry and for its suppliers. We also recognise this, although we do have several strong legs to stand on,” said Kjell Gjestad, Vice President – Supply Chain, Kongsberg Maritime Subsea Division, when he opened Lean Forum BTV-region’s gathering in the Sjømilitære Samfund in Horten.

More than 30 of the forum’s members had made the trip to Horten to witness some of the results of Kongsberg Maritime’s lean journey and supplier development project “Network for supplier innovation”.

Must cooperate

“Should we be the best in our industry, we must work closely with our supply base. We have to place certain demands on our key suppliers, and when we launched our corporate lean programme “The KONGSBERG Way “, it was important that these key suppliers became a part of the program. It is also important for us to share our experiences with other companies where knowledge of our approach to enhanced supplier collaboration can have value”, he said.

Two more years

The Network for supplier innovation programme has so far passed over a three-year period, and has recently received support from Innovation Norway for 2 more years. The program has so far concentrated on suppliers who have also started lean programmes.

There are businesses that are or have the potential to become strategic partners for KM Subsea as a demanding customer. The company has defined quality requirements for suppliers, and each supplier is measured against criteria and classified into categories from “Basic” to “Strategic Partner”. The six suppliers involved in the project have become part of KM Subsea’s extended value chain and will become a key part in KM Subsea’s integrated product development program in the coming years.

Six main suppliers

The six main suppliers that participate in the supplier development initiative are FossTech, OSWO, KSMV, Hapro, FEM and Norautron. Ellen Aase Thu, Lean Manager at Norautron, represented the consortium of suppliers during the Lean Forum BTV event. She told about the experiences Norautron have had as one of KM Subsea’s preferred suppliers.

Participants at the gathering were also given a thorough introduction in to how Kongsberg Maritime rolls out its corporate lean program worldwide across the Subsea division. Lean Programme Manager at KM Subsea, Daryl Powell, spoke about the challenges that KM Subsea are experiencing against a backdrop in which competitors with cheaper products attempt to attack the leading position that the company has achieved by delivering technically advanced products with high quality at high prices.

“Norway is not known for particularly good lean enterprises. We are committed to altering this. We must find effective ways to produce complex, high-tech products in Norway. The particular challenge for a business like ours is that we must manufacture such a wide variety of complex products in relatively low volumes”, he said.

When the company started its lean journey two years ago, Powell was confident that it would take 3-5 years to reach its lean goals. While presenting the preliminary results of the rollout in Horten, Powell lightheartedly suggested that perhaps it is most realistic to spend five years on such a demanding global lean programme. However, it was with a certain pride that Powell could tell that he had recently been recognised among The LMJ’s annual “Lean Top 25”.

“The KONGSBERG Way” is based on five fundamental lean principles as the basis for achieving sustained lean growth:

  1. Customer value
  2. Process stability
  3. Total quality
  4. Flow Efficiency
  5. Continuous improvement.

Each principle has an associated set of tools and techniques that the company uses in the rollout of the program. Participants at the Lean Forum BTV-region’s gathering saw the implementation of some of these in practice during a Gemba walk in KM Subsea’s production facilities at Strandpromenaden in Horten. Participants were particularly impressed with the level of engagement of both operators and leaders at KM Subsea. “To be successful in a lean transformation means to change the culture of an organisation,” Powell concludes. “We measure the number of completed improvements as an indicator of engagement in our lean program. In 2015 the employees in our supply chain organisation alone reported 1750 completed improvements. Already as of August 2016 we have realised around 2000 individual improvements, as the lean program begins to spread further into the other functions in our organisation, including product development and customer support”.

Text re-used with permission of Terje Klausen, Lean Forum BTV-region